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Portelli only candidate to defend Delia as offshore account allegations dominate PN debate

PN leadership candidate Frank Portelli was the only candidate to show ‘solidarity’ with Adrian Delia and the only one to state he would resign if party fails to make inroads in the upcoming local council elections

25 August 2017, 11:15am
The four candidates in their first televised debate
The four candidates in their first televised debate
The four men hoping to become the new opposition leader took to the stage last night for a live debate with four journalists ahead of next week’s first round of votes.

The debate dragged on as Adrian Delia, Alex Perici Calascione, Frank Portelli and Chris Said spoke about how they would try and strengthen the party, with a bottom-up approach where the grassroots would know that they are an active part of the party’s policies.

All four agreed that there was little they could now do over the PN’s “forced coalition” with the Partit Demokratiku and that they would honour the agreement made, but all hinted that the coalition might only survive this legislature.

The debate was a relatively quiet one, as the four candidates answered the questions being put to them. It came as no surprise that allegations of an offshore account held by one of the candidates dominated the debate. In fact, Delia sprinted to the accusations in his opening remarks, intent to show how the “PN’s agenda in these years has been overtaken”.

Delia has also finally decided to publish his declaration of assets – which he insists was a decision taken after consulting the PN’s paid-up members. It comes after Delia repeatedly told the media that he would make it public if, and when, he’s elected leader.

One could not help but notice the digs exchanged between Delia and Said, where they set to contradict one another over a number of points.

At one point, Said spoke of how the party strategy should have thinkers “in the backroom” whilst Delia insisted that the thinkers should be out in the open.

The debate was held just a few hours after Daphne Caruana Galizia revealed documents that would allegedly show how a Jersey account in Delia’s name was used to process money – allegedly derived from prostitution in Soho – for a client.

Delia has filed a libel against Caruana Galizia’s original blog that accused him of lying to the public and the media. Then, last night, Delia announced he was planning to file a second libel over the Soho allegation.

Portelli, who faced questions about his debts, jumped to the defence of Delia as the journalists kept pressing the latter over the offshore account allegations.

It was a relatively awkward moment that saw Delia thanking Portelli for his support, as the other two candidates looked on.

“This blogger will be dumped into the rubbish bin of history,” Portelli exclaimed, as he defended himself – and Delia – from allegations that they were in a dire financial situation.

Portelli was the only one to describe the 2019 local councils and MEP elections as the litmus test of the new PN leader, pledging to resign if the party fails to gain back a minimum of 20,000 votes.